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On Facebook and the news media

On Facebook and the news media: the real question is about how to retain quality journalism, or what’s left of it, in a time when advertising revenue has deserted ‘legacy’ media.

In terms of Facebook benefiting from legacy media being posted on its platform, yes, it’s (a small) part of the mix. However, all those legacy media sites that are asking for FB to pay them already have paywalls in place, so their revenue stream is secure – it is otherwise free advertising for them. Those news media sites that do not rely on paywalls actually benefit from the increased exposure! Putting a ‘tax’ on major platforms and redirecting that income to the legacy media is simple rent-seeking behavior and does not address the underlying problem of advertising following audiences to online forms.

To illustrate, the Saturday Motoring section of The Age used to be a large pull-out in its own right; it has effectively disappeared because online car sites (e.g. Carsales.coma.u) advertise directly to the public. That problem was not caused by Facebook.

And if we are to tax the online platforms then we should redirect that income to public benefit, including the ABC and SBS, rather than to Murdoch’s pockets.

This is not to say that Facebook is not too large and powerful; as a functional online monopoly, it should be broken up and its constituent parts made more accountable. But, then,much the same could be said for News Corp.

Would I be upset if The Australian disappeared? Not if other ‘news’ or verifiable information forms arose to replace it.

At this stage, however, many people seem to be content with cat videos and the like and such ‘news’ they consume tends to not be ‘news’ in the traditional sense of the term. That’s a problem with audiences, not the medium.